Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Shouldn’t government work with taxpayers to resolve issues such as late payments?
Unfortunately, Washington state’s tax collection laws are so tough they make loan sharks envious.
When homeowners don’t — or can’t — pay their property taxes on time, the state piles on huge interest penalties that add up to a whopping 23 percent after the first year.
But Spokane County Treasurer Rob Chase has some ideas rooted in common sense that should benefit taxpayers going through financial difficulties. In addition, the likelihood the taxes will be paid in full will also increase.
Chase has been pitching his ideas in Olympia. Lawmakers should seriously consider incorporating his ideas into legislation that would allow taxpayers to pay their bills monthly and electronically.
Right now, each of the 39 county governments in Washington collect property taxes — under state law — charge a 3 percent late fee and add another 8 percent after nine months. An interest rate of 12 percent a year on the balance is stacked on top of that.
“The bottom line is 23 percent is usurious,” Chase said.
These interest rates are gouging the public, which is ironic since the state prohibits this kind of loan sharking from payday-loan businesses.
Chase wants to change state law to eliminate the penalties, keeping only the 12 percent a year (or 1 percent a month) interest charges. He would also like to see state law allow partial payments and electronic payments.
The Senate is considering legislation to allow partial payments, and Chase went to Olympia to testify in favor of it. And he urged senators to adopt his other suggestions.
Chase is working with Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, to write legislation that would include all his ideas.
What Chase is pushing just makes sense.
If taxpayers could pay their bills over time and have money automatically deducted from their bank accounts (just as banks do for mortgage payments) it seems reasonable more people would keep up with their tax payments and fewer would be in danger of losing their home.
Taking steps to serve citizens, rather than punish them, is simply good government.